Monday, August 31, 2009

Blogging Update

Thanks, folks, for your comments on how you keep up with the social media world—I don't know how you do it! (Though I do know what you mean about needing something to do at work... been there, done that. And yes, I definitely know better than to respond directly to the prolific poster on a class blog, but venting about it just a little on my own blog did help me put it into perspective.)

So, an update on the class blog. First, I discovered I was wrong about the number of people in the class. Turns out there are two sections to the class: One for graduate and one for undergraduate. There are 12 (or now 11—I guess someone dropped) graduate students in the class. When I looked at the undergraduate section, though, I discovered there are 33 people registered there, so with 44 people in the class that explains a little more about why the posts seemed to be ballooning last week as much (and at times as quickly) as they did.

I'm also starting to get a handle on keeping up. Like I said I did the RSS thing, but even with that I'm learning to ignore it so I can get other work done. I'll look at everything from the RSS feeds all at once when I'm ready to do that, skim most and respond to a limited number where I feel like I have something intelligent to say. That tactic should help me keep things down to a dull roar.

Finally, I wrote to the professor today and asked him something related to how he was grading our blog posts and what he expected. He sent me back a very thoughtful response saying I'm doing just fine with the blog and he doesn't expect everyone to spend as much time on the blog as he does, he's just looking for a good "classroom" dialogue about the topics we're covering in the course. I can handle that, particularly since that's how I was approaching it already: Do my posts after I've listened to the week's lectures, read the material, and put together my thoughts about it. So I think I'll do ok.

So that's the status of one class. Maybe next time I'll talk about another class (I have three of them). And on that note, time to turn the computer off to keep me from being distracted while I do some reading for another!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Keeping Up

I've now completed my first full week of fall semester (the week before when classes actually started was only a partial week)—only 14 to go. Apparently a semester is 16 weeks long; whadya know. I think it's safe to say I'm drowning. Well, ok, technically I'm not behind on anything (yet) but I find it easier to just feel like I'm drowning all the time. That way when I really am (which I think is going to be pretty often this semester, anyway) I'm already in the right "mode" for working on stuff. If that makes any sense.

Actually, I am drowning in one place: Blogging. In my last post I mentioned that I have several blogs I have to post to this semester, and by "have to" I mean I'm getting graded on it, both quality and quantity. One of those blogs is for the "Social Media and Public Relations" class I mentioned. I've now taught myself about RSS (ok, I knew what it was, I just didn't bother to use it until now) and that's helping a little, but keeping up with everyone's posts in addition to having to do my own is already getting WAY out of hand. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about here: The way this particular blog forum works is the instructor makes initial posts and then it's our job to post comments, both to his posts directly and to comments other students have made. So you end up with multiple "threads" (multi-level comments) within a single original post by the instructor. It makes it hard to follow, particularly since the RSS feeds only include the title of the original post by the instructor so without going to the blog to see the context you don't know if a particular student's post is replying to the original post or someone else's post. (If that all sounds confusing, you're right—welcome to my world.)

On top of the less-than-usable interface the quantity of posts is pretty astounding. As of this particular moment (and it'll probably change by the time I actually publish this post), in the four original posts that the instructor has put up for this week there are a total of 131 comments. I should mention that according to the course enrollment—which I just checked—there are a total of 12 people enrolled in this class. Yes, 12. And 131 comments (and rising) in less than a week. Maybe the other people in the class are only taking this one class so can focus on it wholeheartedly, but with three classes I can't. It's my nature to want to keep up with everything for my classes but I know if I don't start ignoring some of the posts soon I'm going to go crazy. I know I need to just do my posts, comment on a few other peoples', then turn it off until the next week's assignment. It's just hard when I can't get all the reading and listening to the lectures (two per week each over an hour long) done immediately so I see the RSS folders fill with posts from people who apparently have. (Either that or they're posting to the blog before they do the required reading and watch the lectures, which could be happening, I don't know.)

So, after all this I have a question for y'all (if you knew me in person you'd know I could never pull off that word in speaking): How do you keep up with the social media world? I've only talked about blogging here (and one blog in particular) but there's the whole Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else world out there, too. Everyone says how time consuming it is yet they continue to do it; since there's only so much time in the day that means other things have to suffer, right? How do you manage it all? And not just with friends: My class is on how organizations use social media to reach their publics, so that means their publics—that's you and me—have to be spending time with those social media tools in order to see the organizations' messages. I don't know how anyone has time for it all and can still be a student, an employee, a wife, a husband, a person who has a relationship with anything other than their computer all day long...

* * * *

As I've been writing this I've been monitoring the RSS feed and going back and forth to the blog I mentioned; one person has now posted 12 comments in the past hour. His most recent post is responding to someone who speculated that too much from an organization—too many tweets, Facebook updates, whatever—may be too much for some people. The prolific commenter agreed and asked when do you say, "Enough is enough." I am SOOOOOOOOO tempted to reply to his post and say, "12 comments in an hour—enough is enough!!!!!" But I'm restraining myself and won't. :-)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Back to School

Fall semester started last week at NC State. I don't know what it is about school but just the thought of it makes me feel overwhelmed—let alone the actuality of it. So, even though I've only had one day of classes (for my two on-campus classes; I also have an online class that isn't starting real work until next week) I am officially overwhelmed.

On the bright side I think it will be a fun semester. When I started the program last spring a lot of classes were full by the time I was able to register so my options were somewhat limited in what I could take. When registering for fall, however, I was able to register with all the seniority that being a graduate student brings and I had no trouble getting my first choices. All three of my courses are in my field, relevant, and include interesting readings and assignments. Now that I'm not a new student anymore I also know many of the people in my two on-campus classes already. I'm particularly excited about my online course, a communications seminar called "Social Media and Public Relations." I'm finally going to learn about all the social media I've been avoiding! And I'll be dealing with it from the perspective of how organizations can use it to enhance their businesses, not from a personal standpoint, which is what I was avoiding. Sounds like the best of both worlds to me.

One thing being back in school will mean, of course, is that I'll undoubtedly have less time for this blog. I'm still going to try to post to it once a week; we'll see how well I do with that. As part of my schoolwork and other responsibilities this semester I've actually got three other blogs I'll be posting to on a regular basis so that will keep me busy with blogging, I'm sure. But, the more practice the better, right?

* * * *

I realized I haven't posted an update on our precious pooch lately—I'm sure inquiring minds want to know! I'm happy to report that she's doing MUCH better: She's finishing up her antibiotic this weekend and I'm taking her to our regular vet for a follow-up blood test on Monday. She isn't having any of the symptoms she was anymore and is definitely brighter and more energetic than she was for most of the summer.

She's still a little on the thin side and getting her to eat is still a daily ordeal; I doubt it'll ever be a matter of just putting her food in front of her and having her eat it again. But we've got a routine (and an understanding) now and she does pretty well. She always comes and eats at least a few bites of breakfast now; for a while she wouldn't even entertain the idea of breakfast. Her favorite time to eat seems to be after her evening walk when she often cleans her bowl. Today was an exciting day: She cleaned her bowl at breakfast, lunch, AND dinner! So even though I still have to stand over her while she eats and remind her to eat periodically (she's an easily distracted pooch) at least she's getting used to eating regularly again. She's also been sleeping through the night for the past several weeks—a true blessing.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Comments on Commenting

First of all, thanks to those of you who commented on my last post—it's nice to hear how other people navigate the blog world as I work on defining my own response to it. I've got some ideas on why my attitude might be what it is about some things; more on that in a minute.

First, some comments on comments:

Allison - I agree about the time management aspect of things! I don't know how people keep up with dozens of personal blogs on a daily basis.

Dr. Wifey - Thanks for the tip to the SITS site. That's a good idea—for people who must have a LOT of time on their hands! I can tell just from looking at it that I'd be overwhelmed by it pretty quickly.

K Storm - I'm always happy to hear what you have to say! I use the blog roll to see which blogs are updated, too, though I've noticed my blog roll doesn't always reflect things correctly: Sometimes it'll say a blog hasn't been updated for 5 days but when I check the blog there's a new post from that day. So maybe the blog roll just has a delay in its update times. I'm never sure what time zone it's working with, anyway...

Jen - I read a few blogs that are for information, too (related to the field of technical communications, in my case); if I ever do comment on them (which I haven't yet) I definitely wouldn't expect any comments on my personal blog in return. And I know what you mean about commenting sometimes keeping you up late at night—I've occasionally done the same!

Now, some thoughts about my attitude toward blogs and commenting. There are definitely different categories of blogs: Ones I consider professional or informational, which I read for the same reason I read articles on something like CNN; blogs of friends I know outside the blogging world, where I may or may not comment since we communicate in other ways; and blogs of people who I only know through their blogs. As I've been searching for blog friends I find blogs that look like they're written by nice people but I'm not necessarily looking at the content specifically. If I comment on several posts and don't get any response, though, then the content starts to matter more since that's all I have to go on. It's similar to if I try to befriend someone in person: If I'm doing all the talking and it seems like the person really doesn't want to relate to me then I'm probably not going to continue that "friendship" (which really isn't a friendship but more of a one-sided monologue) for very long. In the blog world—or any other online-only discipline—that two-way interaction is even more "removed" (the best way I can think to describe it) than face-to-face interaction. The truth of the matter is if I'm reading a blog about a family, for instance, then the kids may be very cute and they may do fun things, but since I don't have a connection to that family it isn't very real to me. Reciprocal comments on each other's blogs make people—and their families—much more real to me and establish that connection. When I look for blog friends I'm looking for that blog-level connection.

I'm also finding that quality is much better than quantity (back to that how do people keep up thing!) so I'm not complaining, just analyzing why I (and others, I imagine) might act the way I do.

On that note I'm off to class to learn about usability studies and technical communication theory. Happy blogging, everyone!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Awards and Blog Etiquette

Ok, it's time to deal with some bloggy things.

I'm the first to admit I'm no expert on blogs and I don't know all the comings and goings about them; I'm learning as I go and hoping I don't say anything wrong or offend anyone along the way. For example, I'm still working on making blog friends. I'm told the best way is to comment on lots of blogs and then see who comments back on yours. I have made a few blog friends that way (including one who I'm going to meet in person next month!) and I have to say I've had fun getting to know them through commenting on each other's blogs. I wouldn't say I've commented on a huge number of blogs but I have commented on a few who have never returned comments on mine. I'm not sure what to think about this... Should I continue commenting in the hope that the blog owner will eventually acknowledge my existence (and my blog)? Should I just read the blog if I like it but not worry about commenting? Should I stop reading the blog? (I confess I've done that in a few cases...) I'm curious what other folks out there do with this dilemma.

Another area I'm not quite sure about is awards. Or maybe I should say "awards" since I don't think these are official blog awards; as best I can tell they're a game of some sort where people pass these "awards" around from one blog to another. (They kind of remind me of chain letters from way back when, or chain e-mails in the digital age.) A friend of mine gave me my first "award" back in July; I figured out the code to put it on my blog but I guess I've been lax in my award duties. So, to make up for lost time here are the rules for the first award I received from my friend, Sarah:
love ya award

This award is bestowed on to blogs that are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to six bloggers who must choose six more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.

I'll pass this award onto my new blog friends. Congratulations! (I think...)
  1. Dr. Wifey
  3. Allison
  4. In the Dog House
  5. Sarah (yep, you get it back)
(I know that's only five, not six. Like I said, I'm still working on making blog friends!)

Now Sarah went and gave me another award:

over the top award

This one looks kind of fun so I'll run with it. The goal is to answer each question with only one word. Here it goes:
  1. Where is your cell phone? dresser
  2. Your hair? messy
  3. Your mother? librarian
  4. Your father? engineer
  5. Your favorite food? chocolate
  6. Your dream last night? forgotten
  7. Your favorite drink? strong [Not really, that just sounded too good to pass up.]
  8. Your dream/goal? job
  9. What room are you in? bonus
  10. Your hobby? blogging!
  11. Your fear? job
  12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? working
  13. Where were you last night? sleeping
  14. Something that you aren’t? programmer
  15. Muffins? yes!
  16. Wish list item? job
  17. Where did you grow up? California
  18. Last thing you did? breakfast
  19. What are you wearing? headband
  20. Your TV? big
  21. Your pets? sleeping
  22. Friends? close
  23. Your life? blessed
  24. Your mood? anticipating
  25. Missing someone? no
  26. Vehicle? 1991
  27. Something you’re not wearing? socks
  28. Your favorite store? Trader Joe's (should count as one word!)
  29. Your favorite color? green
  30. When was the last time you laughed? yesterday
  31. Last time you cried? Thursday
  32. Your best friend? husband
  33. One place that I go to over and over? school
  34. One person who emails me regularly? mom
  35. Favorite place to eat? restaurant
I'll pass this one on to the people listed above, or anyone else who'd like to put it on their blog and try it. Have fun!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Goin' Toading

My computer connected normally today (vs. yesterday)—yeah! Now I can get to work.

One of my husband's and my favorite activities here in North Carolina is what we call "goin' toading." On summer evenings the toads come out (they're Fowler's toads, my naturalist husband tells me) and when we take our dog for walks we look for them. We've even made up a song for our outings (sung to the tune of "The Farmer in the Dell"):

A-toading we will go,
A-toading we will go,
High-ho the merry-o,
A-toading we will go.

In our travels around the neighborhood we've identified three categories of toads. We call them mini-toads, mid-toads, and mega-toads. Descriptive, huh? My favorites are the mini-toads. They're the hoppiest and hardest to catch sometimes but they're the ones I usually go for. I'll also pick up mid-toads but I let my husband pick up the mega-toads if he's so inclined. Our dog just likes to try and pounce on whatever she sees. (I'm happy to report she has pretty awful pouncing aim and has never actually caught a toad that I know of.) Most of the toads we see are mini or mid; we've only seen a few mega-toads this summer. We also occasionally see nano-toads; they're really tiny and pretty much impossible to catch. When we catch a toad we just say hello to it, then we put it back where we found it so it can get back to catching its dinner.

Here's a picture of a mini-toad we found by our house one evening:

Isn't he cute?

Here's a picture of a mid-toad—this one has more stripes than others but he's still a Fowler's toad.

Last but not least, here's our resident mega-toad:


This particular mega-toad is a real character. He (or it could be she) is always out in front of the same house at the same time almost every night. We've named him Megs (short for mega-toad; yep, original, I know). It took several tries to get a picture of him; I'd see him when I took the dog for her walk then my husband and I would go look for him to take his picture after he got home from work. When we got there after 10 PM, though, Megs would be gone. We finally figured out that I usually see him before 9:30 and he must go to bed (i.e. retire to the bushes) by 10:00. One evening when my husband was off and could come with me for our walk we went out at 9:00 to look for him and there he was, right in his regular spot. My husband even got an action shot of him hunting down a bug:

Right after hubby took the picture Megs caught the bug and ate it. Unfortunately, that happened too quickly to capture on film (or digital camera, in this case).

Happy Toading!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Computer Problems


I was planning on having such a productive day today: Updating this blog, posting to another one, cleaning up the rest of my e-mail, maybe even doing some vacuuming and ironing for once. Instead, I dealt with computer problems for the majority of the day.

Yesterday I spent nine hours logged into a virtual private network (VPN), downloading files from one server to another. (I'll talk about why I did that in another post someday.) Everything seemed to go fine; the application I was using to download the files crashed every so often and I had to keep restarting it but the person I was working with said that was to be expected. The VPN was stable and never dropped, though, which was a huge plus. The download still hadn't finished by 11:00 at night so I figured I'd let it run some more today and hopefully it would finish then. (Unfortunately the download is blind for me: I can see how much is downloaded to the target server but I can't see how much of the total it's done or how much it has to go. The application is definitely lacking in the feedback area, if you ask me!)

This morning I went to the vet to pick up a refill of some medicine for my cat, then I came home and thought I'd get some work done on the computer. I turned on my laptop that I use for everything these days, it booted normally, and I waited for the network to connect for Internet access... but it never did. I figured our Internet provider may have reset things on their server as they sometimes do so I reboot the modem and the router, then reboot the computer; still no connection. We also have a desktop computer so I turned that on to see if the Internet worked there; it did so that proved it wasn't a problem with the ISP. I attempted to connect the laptop directly to the modem (bypassing the router); still no connection. After trying a few other things I narrowed it down to being a problem somewhere in the laptop itself: It was as if there was some switch in there telling the network adapters (wireless and LAN) not to turn on. I'm no system administrator (and don't want to be!) but whenever these things happen I learn more about the inner workings of computers than I ever wanted to know. Using the working Internet on the desktop here are some of the rabbit trails I followed today:
  • tunnel adapters
  • TCP/IPv6
  • ipconfig
  • netsh
  • BIOS
(I'm guessing most of you reading this don't know what most if not all of those things are. If so don't worry, count your blessings and hope you never need to know.)

After SEVEN HOURS of failing to fix the problem (and becoming pretty frustrated and agitated with the thought of having to take my computer to a repair place and leave it for a few days) I finally read a post in a forum that happened to talk about a setting in the BIOS... Once I found the BIOS in my Windows Vista computer I found the setting, which was indeed turned off (disabled). I turned it on (enabled) and to my total surprise the network connected and I had Internet access—just as I was about to give up and take it to the repair place. So what was that setting in the BIOS? "Internal Network Adapter Boot" (or something like that). Apparently Windows Vista (which is on my laptop) has a BIOS setting that has to be enabled for the network adapters to "turn on" during the boot process; if that setting is disabled the computer boots up without them and the network can't connect. The fact that Windows still recognized the adapters and said they were enabled didn't help things during my problem-solving endeavor.

I have no idea how that setting got turned off but given the variables I'm working with I suspect it has something to do with the VPN and the process surrounding downloading those files. (Which I'm continuing to do as I write this, in fact, and it still isn't finished... It's V E R Y slow over the VPN.) And I'm still having problems: After we got back from dinner (I decided I needed to go out to dinner after all this) I turned on the laptop and the network connected but not the Internet. Thankfully rebooting the modem and router worked this time and it connected again.

At this point I'm afraid to see what tomorrow might bring. Maybe I should rethink my career path and become a system administrator after all!

Friday, August 7, 2009

More Critters

The other night we found a new critter on the suet feeder:

Who, me?

We always suspected there were flying squirrels around but hadn't seen any yet. This one was amazingly unskittish: When my husband went outside to get better pictures the critter jumped off the feeder onto the tree but then he just hung there, letting us get pretty close to get a good look at him.

I blend in pretty well, don't I?

Coming home from a walk one evening we found this little critter on our front porch:

Here I am posing on a leaf...

He stuck around (literally) for quite a while, too.

Last but not least, one more critter picture I can't resist:

Our dog pulling stuffing out of her latest chew toy, in this case a teddy bear we got for her at a thrift store. She makes a hole, pulls out the stuffing, spits it out, then goes back in for more. Do all dogs act like this? I'm not sure if her behavior here is normal or yet another of her lovely quirks.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


On Monday I took my final exam for the summer course I've been taking—I am SOOOOOOO glad to be done with that course. Suffice it to say it wasn't my favorite class. Thankfully it was only a 5-week summer course (a semester's worth of work in that time, though); if it had been any longer I seriously would have considered dropping it rather than just sticking it out. I didn't waste any time and made a special trip to the school bookstore yesterday to sell back the book. I got back about half of what I paid for it, which I figure is that much more than if I kept the book and used it as a paperweight (which is about all it would have been good for as far as I'm concerned). I don't know my final grade in the class yet but as long as I didn't completely bomb the final exam I think I did OK. The important thing is it's done.

Now I have about two weeks until fall semester starts and I'm hoping to make the most of it. I really need to clean the house from top to bottom; that should be first on my list. I'm not even going to pretend it is, though, just that I'll hopefully be motivated enough to get it done before classes start. I also want to get through e-mail I've been letting sit and catch up on blogging. I know it's hard to believe but I actually do have a few more topics in mind than just my dog's health. (Though I admit that's been pretty consuming as of late.) Last but not least I'd like to do some cooking and baking while I have time. While I'm in school I try to make things with lots of leftovers so they're easy to warm up in the microwave when I get home late. It'll be nice to eat some non-leftovers for a change.

A quick note about the dog for those of you following along with her. She's still not completely well and getting her to eat is still a daily struggle; sometimes it's more of a game and other times it's more of a battle. For the past couple of days it seems like she's been drinking more again (she had been drinking a little less) and she didn't want to eat even when she saw me put her "special" food in her dish. Last night I resorted to chicken again; when I put that in her dish she gobbled it and her dog food right up so she was definitely hungry. She picked the chicken out of her dish at breakfast this morning so I'll try again at lunchtime. This afternoon she has an appointment with our regular vet for her annual shots so I'll see what they say about all this then. She's still on the antibiotic so it should be doing its thing. Leptospirosis may just be a very persistent disease.